Friday, February 29, 2008

ANTE UP! - A lo cubano

A late youtube response to Fidel's stepping down.

Hopefully our new president will have the foresight (and guts) to begin conversations with Cuba and END THE EMBARGO. I mean, how much power should some vehemently anti-Castro Cuban Americans in Miami have, anyway?


The Community Garden in SF

I recently took a brief stroll up to the base of Bernal Hill to check out a few open plots in one of the local community gardens. So my girlfriend and I are most likely going to appropriate a plot in said terraced garden. There is sufficient sunshine, and it is close enough to receive regular attention. Within several months, we should have abundant lettuces, squash and other vegetables for our table.

Here's to growing your own.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Dave Chappelle Baltimore Club Re-mix


Yes, people! This is some funny shit. The classic sped up Bmore house beat, with looped vocal snippets. I love Baltimore house...well at least for 5 minutes at a time before the charm wears off.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

WineBookClub #1: VINO ITALIANO

First off, allow me to welcome all of you to the first installment in what will be many wine book club (WBC) reviews here on OWOS and elsewhere in the wine blogging ether. I truly look forward to the WBC for two reasons:

1.) It will add further academic legitimacy and wine officialdom to these pages
2.) More importantly, it will ever so gently (as only a deadline is capable) force me and my colleagues to read more wine literature, further educate ourselves on our passion and hopefully fuel the creative fire for our primary subject of online pontification.

Vino Italiano is a collaborative effort between Joe Bastianich, a New York City restaurateur and partner in the New York City based, high-end wine shop, Italian Wine Merchants, as well as the owner of a Friulian winery, and David Lynch, who was most recently senior editor at Wine & Spirits and is currently wine director at the Bastianich/Batali owned Babbo in New York. Fortunately for American wine geeks, food folk, and the otherwise Italian wine curious, Vino Italiano speaks with a true American, even further a New Yorker's voice, which makes this substantial 500+ paged tome a pleasure to read. Its cool, casual, hangin' out in Italy narrative is sure to entertain, while the detailed picture painted of each Italian wine region leaves few, if any, details out of the picture.

This definitive guide to the world of Italian wine is arranged by region, with handy appendices consisting of Italian grapes, Italian wine terms, DOC(G) and IGT directory, producer guide and other resources. There is a consistent structure to each chapter: regional anecdote (e.g. wild boar hunting in Tuscany, calamari frying in Liguria, cab riding and gelato discussion in Sicily); leading into a brief overview of the region's history and modern wine industry trends, and a description of the various grapes, types of wine and major players in the region. Concluding each chapter is a regional recipe from either Lydia Bastianich (Joe's mother and US Italian restaurant trailbazer) or Mario Batali. On several occasions, I have tried Lydia's Risotto al Barolo, one of the more simple recipes (even by Italian standards) in this book, and each time it has yielded terrific, authentic tasting, well received risotto each time I have prepared it.

Reading Vino Italiano, I wonder how Mr. Lynch and Mr. Bastianich collaborated on their work. Did they divvy up regions, or jointly handle each one? Whose anecdotes and tasting notes went where? Regardless on how work was doled out, the narrative is consistently of a single voice, one which is equally educational and entertaining. Combined with the wealth of up-to-date information, it is this inimitable New Yorker, food and wine obsessed, insider voice that makes Vino Italiano so eminently readable and enjoyable to me and, I imagine, to such a wide range of readers. It is the rare wine book that combines humor, anecdotal tales, and a true sense of being THE authoritative guide of its field. Congratulations to David Lynch and Joe Bastiancih for achieving all of this in a guide that is equally entertaining, educational, down-to-earth and all encompassing. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED reading for anyone, from those who are even remotely curious about Italian wine, to the most serious Italophiles.

WBC #1: VINO ITALIANO - review coming soon!!!

Read here for more details on what I think should be a fun and educational addition to the world of those who opine on wine online. My man and indefatiguable colleague David McDuff hosts the proceedings.

I plan on taking full advantage of the pacific time zone, so that my review will hopefully be posted by COB today, or 11:59pm PST. A bit more power skimming and digestion, and the review will slowly begin to take shape in my mind and on these pages. Here's a bit of a teaser - Vino Italiano is a good book, and thorough.

Alright, review to follow....

Joe Gibbs, RIP

Another reggae legend has passed away. Read here for more:
Hope you enjoy the tribute to Joe, who produced this famous Culture track (which is also a tribute to Joseph Hill, who passed away a year and a half ago).

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Long Saturday evening, lots of wine

Last night was definitely one of the more markedly wine geek evenings I have spent in a while. I'll go over what was in the glass; keep in mind that, for any of you who haven't done this before, these are not full glasses of each of these that are being downed. Far from it. A 1 oz taste of one thing, maybe another 1 oz if it's good (or more if it's killer), and move on to the next wine, an so on. Hanging out with the geek crowd can be alternately educational, entertaining and wearisome; perhaps most importantly for me, it almost always is a great way to taste a lot of wine that I otherwise might not have had the opportunity to taste.

The evening started in the Berkeley Hills, in an artist's beautiful home. Ariel is a gracious host, as well as an incredibly talented, very sharp and young at heart 80 year old widow. Her deceased husband was one of the nation's foremost William Butler Yeats scholars, as well as a friend of Allen Ginsberg, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, et al. Our discussion was lively and animated, running the gamut from the New York Times op-ed, to FDR's oratory, to the peculiar place that is California (more specifically the bay area)and its correspondingly peculiar mindset. I will forego the details and cut to the chase with the wines.

1998 Stefano Antonucci Verdicchio de Casteli Jesi

Definitely one to drink now, but not at all over the hill. Green fruit flavors, melon rind, and a bit of a lingering light, toasty aftertaste. This is still reasonably lively and tasty verdicchio. Fun.

2004 Puffeney Poulsard Arbois

Bright, nervy poulsard, with tiny berry fruit. Edgier than Tissot's, but slightly less interesting than the '02 Overnoy/Houillon Poulsard I enjoyed last year.

1999 La Rioja Alta Vina Ardanza Reserva

This wine has yet to disappoint. Red fruited, spicy and Chambolle-like, in a plusher, softer, garnacha influenced Rioja sort of way. Superbueno; the wine also complemented our braised cornish game hens beautifully.

2002 Francois Chidaine Montlouis 'Clos Habert'

A decidely drier version of this wine than to which I am accustomed. Beautiful chenin that to my taste is already showing some good development, complexity and integration of yellow stone fruits, mineral and pronounced, though mellowing, acidity. Gorgeous wine that should have many interesting years and stages ahead of it. This and the rectangular version of crotin de chavignol after dinner was awesome - the pairing of the night.

Now we change scenes and head to Terroir, where both the geek wines, and wine geek star power (co-workers Jeff Viera and Chiara Shannon, SFJoe, the famed wine forum and blog poster, and of course Guillhaume, Dagan and Luc) shifted into high gear:

2005 Domaine de Bellevieres Pineau d'Aunis

This is much more interesting and balanced than when I last tasted it 6 or so months ago. Smells like fresh rain on stones, with earthy berry fruits and less of a resiny quality than last time I tasted. Really good (Hey Bklynguy - give it another try some time).

1989 Jasmin Cote Rotie

Like the roasted slope of this wine's name sake, this stuff tasted...roasted. Very ripe, savory, hickory smoked cherry fruit that seemed to be on its way to drying out. Not enough acidity for my taste either. I'll admit to lack of experience with Cote Rotie young and old, but so far no luck with these wines.

1992 Jasmin Cote Rotie

This was not as evolved or smokey as the above, but it also lacked some mid-palate depth and just wasn't doing it.

2002 Paolo Bea Montefalco Rosso

Very woodsy, wild blackberry and other mixed berry fruits. This Umbrian blend of Sangiovese, Merlot and Sagrantino is powerful and full flavored, though not lacking in purity or nuance either. A bit earthy, with a hint of cocoa powder on the finish. Very good.

2001 Riserva La Gatta Valtellina Superiore

This was solid nebbiolo. As Dagan, said nebbiolo for burgundy fans. I can't remember more specifics, other than the fact that the wine was balanced, persistent and tasty. Not a stunner, just very respectable.

SF Joe's 1980 Vouvray

I didn't catch the producer or the obscure circumstances of this wine's history. Maybe someone who was there could remind me (or someone not there familiar with Vouvray could posit a guess)? All I remember is that the acidity could really fuck up a fragile stomach. Razor sharp, blindingly bright, white light/white heat white wine.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Common - Resurrection

Let's continue the Chi-town theme. The title track to Common's landmark album, 'Resurrection,' this shows a lyrically sharp and hungry Lonnie Rashid Lynn, Jr.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

12 Hours with Barack Obama

In BWI airport yesterday, awaiting to board my return flight to SFO, I stopped in to the Hudson Bookshop, and noticed a copy of The Audacity of Hope by Barack Obama. I will come out and say that I am an ardent supporter of Senator Obama. Honestly this is not based on any personal contact I have had with the man. Nor is it based on any extensive viewing of the primary debates, or any thorough knowledge of his past legislation and current positions on issues. Like many others, I support Obama because he strikes me as extraordinarily genuine, intelligent, and sufficiently informed on issues to do a good job as president. His momentum is truly impressive, and looking back it all started with an enthusiasm amongst people in their twenties, thirties and forties that has not existed for any democratic candidate in the past two decades. I am generally not one for reading books written by active, or retired, politicians. Nevertheless, I felt the need to read Obama's book and better acquaint myself. Know your candidate, right?

And man, am I glad that I did. The book was an affirmation of what makes Obama as attractive a presidential candidate as he appears to so many of us. In fluid, down-to-earth, conversational prose, Obama gives the reader a better sense of his personal background and his career thus far as a politician. Throughout, in broad brush strokes, he summarizes recent political history, tries to explain the bitter, divisive nature of current politics, and offers his take on recent US history and where the country is going. Some reasons, solidified during my reading, of why I like Barack Obama for president:

- Like 99% of Americans, he does not come from an overly priviledged background
- His multi-culti, well-travelled upbringing instilled in him a unique perspective
- He is an experienced grass roots organizer
- His proposed ideas, though untested and at times vague, are creative and unlike anyone else's I have heard. They also seem realistic and fairly easily implemented.
- He probably knows the difference between 'crunk' and 'hyphy.'

And most importantly: HE IS REAL.

I know, this does not mention specifics, and that is of course the popular criticism of both Obama and his backers. Doesn't matter. Obama is as real as they come, and right now I think the US wants someone who is real to lead.


Tuesday, February 19, 2008

The most enjoyable current release Napa Cab I've had in a while is:

- marketed by Gallo
- not overextracted, over-oaked, sweet, or otherwise unnatural tasting
- an historic California producer


Yes, it's far from a cool wine to like, it's a Gallo product, is probably not made from organically farmed, hand picked grapes, and is probably made in massive quantities. Doesn't matter as I think the wine is fun, quite natural tasting, reasonably priced, and reflective of a type of style all but lost in Napa Valley. Go buy a bottle (it's probably a very easy find) and see what you might be missing.

Three days with 2004 Produttori del Barbaresco Barbaresco, or, my continuing efforts to predict the future

Known by many as the best co-operative in the wine world, and as the main reason why Barbaresco became a separate D.O.C.G. from Barolo, the Produttori (as they are often called) have for a long time been one of the great producers of traditional Barbaresco. Their basic Barbaresco is typically solid and attractively priced. Their single cru offerings can also be quite good, though I have less experience with them. This post will only touch on the entry level Barbaresco.

Produttori del Barbaresco 2004 (Day 1)

I was not quite sure how to feel about the '04 Produttori. Upon first sip, there was all of the requisite red fruit and rose petals on the palate, with licorice notes on the finish. Very good acidity and fine grained, drying tannins completed the package, but somehow it seemed like something was missing. A bit of weight and gravitas maybe? Not that good, traditional Barbaresco should be a weighty, mid-palate staining wine. Somehow, though, I expected something more akin to my memory of tasting the '01 upon its release. This had been my introduction to the Produttori and my first taste of traditional nebbiolo from the Piedmont. And from a terrific vintage at that. '02 of course was dilute and tough to drink, '03 a little bit more meaty and savory, but also more simple and less edgy. So where was my return to form on the '04? Maybe the wine would show better on day 2?

Day 2

The wine opened up, but went a little bit tooty fruity and candied on me. More roses, manifested as turkish delight, but also a real confectionary quality as well. Tannins are still similar to day 1.

Day 3

Surprisingly, the wine seemed to close up and shut down. Red fruit became dark, licorice turned more prominent, inner-mouth floral aromas were slightly muted.


Hell if I know. As far as aging I'm somewhat stumped. This might be merely 5 year material but somehow I am withholding hope that it could be wine to drink in a decade. Guess I'll have to buy a few bottles and drink at 5, 7 and 10 years from now.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Wulong Tea

More commonly referred to as 'oolong,' I prefer the alternate spelling of this famous Chinese tea. Though it is not as old as its green tea counterpart, oolong is China's most famous type of tea. Unlike green tea which is produced from leaves that are minimally oxidized, and black tea, which is comprised of 100% oxidized tea leaves, oolong is partially oxidized anywhere from 10%-70%. The resulting color of the tea can be anywhere from light golden green to a darker amber, and the flavors from grassier and more green tea like to more floral, strong and black tea like. Here are two contrasting styles of Oolong which I tasted recently.

Silk Road 'Competition Grade' Oolong tea

A dark green colored, ball shaped tea, this oolong is very fresh, grassy and green smelling. Just a touch of the oolong musky floral aromatics lead to crisp, clean and green flavors, with good purity and persistence on the finish.

Lupicia Tie Guan Yin Oolong Tea

From Fujiang province, this is clearly a more heavily oxidized version of oolong - the tea is clearly a very dark shade of green, almost bluish-black. Once brewed, this tea takes on a light brown color, with strong floral scents that for some reason brings to mind an old lady smell. Strange, yes, but that's what it smells like. The flavors are similarly floral with a touch of dried apricot. I'm not as into this oolong as the above; maybe I have not yet developed a taste for the stronger, more heavily oxidized oolongs?

Friday, February 15, 2008

Stadlman Zierfandler Classic 2005

This one here is one of those rare 'drink it, gotta immediately post on it' wines. Very Austrian wine, similar to many Austrian rieslings I've had - minerally flavors, with an apricot kernel and leesy character. The difference here is that this zierfandler shows some very pithy, grapefruit flavors. A bit of a bitter snap that seems to mellow after a day or so open in the fridge. But still the type of minerality and structure that I come across so often and love in Austrian Rieslings is definitely showing itself. Fun wine, and a great deal for under $15.

Company Flow - 8 steps to perfection

I'm going to use a dated, way overused term right now - backpacker. This is the quintessential backpacker hip-hop record. Lyrically challenging, hard hitting, funky, experimental production from El-P. This one here is a cool, crisp, tangy vlassic.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Whiling away on the east yay

For anyone I already managed to lose with the title, what I meant to say might go something like this: "A lovely afternoon spent on the East Bay"

Yesterday afternoon the lady and I rode bikes around Oakland and Berkeley, doing some fun food geek stuff (yeah I said 'food geek' - why are we wine geeks but 'foodies' instead of 'food geeks') at various points along the way.

Our first stop was Bakesale Betty, an awesome bakery started by a CPU (that's Chez Panise University) alum. Many of the east bay's top spots are run by folks who used to work for Alice Waters - you might call her the Coach K of the Bay Area restaurant community. Anyway, we were given a gingerbread cookie each while waiting for our mouthwateringly delicious fried chicken sandwich. Said sandwich consists of perfectly fried chicken filets, served atop fresh green cabbage mixed with lemon juice, red onions and a bit of chopped jalapeno peppers. It's all crammed into a crusty torpedo shaped roll and served on an aluminum baking pan. We headed outside to grab a seat at one of the ironing board tables and enjoyed sitting in the Oakland sun, eating fried chicken sandwiches, washed down with a perfectly tangy lemon ice - that's the way to spend a day off.

After lunch we headed to Rockridge to say a quick howdy to Mark at Paul Marcus Wines, buy some truffle oil at the Pasta Shop, and then drink the famous hot chocolate at Bittersweet. We opted for the less chocolatey, slightly less rich, more cinnamony Mexican champurrado. It was delicious - sweet, spicy, and just enough cocoa. With the hominy flour element it also tasted more nourishing than your usual hot chocolate, but maybe that was just because I associate corn with nourishment? Very tasty hot chocolate at Bittersweet.

After relaxing times in tony Rockridge, we hopped on our bikes and headed west, to West Berkeley. We went into an Indian market for some spices, a large bag of CTC black tea, and some other sundries. [A quick question to any readers out there experienced in Indian cookery: should fresh curry leaves smell like car exhaust? The ones we bought smell that way and I do not know whether or not to use them].

We enjoyed a beautiful last few moments of sunset on the bridge heading out towards the Berkeley marina. This is easily one of the best views I have seen since moving to the Bay Area - the glowing houses on the Berkeley Hills behind you on the east, the downtown San Francisco skyline at around 10 o'clock on the west, the Golden Gate straight ahead, Marin headlands due north at around 1 o'clock, and an illuminated downtown Oakland to the south.

To all the lovers out there Happy Valentine's Day.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Phillipe Alliet and Francois Chidaine: A sneak peak at '06 in Chinon and Montlouis sur Loire

Our rep came in yesterday to taste us on Phillipe Alliet Chinons, as well as Francois Chidaine's 06's. While the Clos Habert was fantastic, the Clos de Breuil and Clos Baudoin were corked, and I wasn't excited by the Les Tuffeaux. I'm withholding judgement until I taste these wines again. The real highlight, though, was tasting some terrific cab franc from Phillipe Alliet, 'le plus grand producteur de vins rouges de la Loire,' according to Le Revue du vin de France.

2006 Phillipe Alliet Chinon

Their 'basic' cuvee is anything but - pure, classic blackberry fruit. Very pure, vivid, bright, clean cab franc blackberries and black currants here.

2005 Phillipe Alliet Chinon L'Huisserie

Alright, so I'm sneaking a couple of'05 Chinons from Mr. Alliet... Grapes from this recently purchased vineyard site had been going into the basic cuvee for the past few vintages; this is the first vintage where fruit from L'Huisserie is vinified and bottled on its own. Very rich, dense, spicy black cherry fruit doesn't sacrifice the cut and purity typical of first rate cab franc. Impressive wine.

2005 Phillipe Alliet Chinon Coteaux de Noire

The top cuvee, produced from fruit grown on south facing slopes of predominately limestone soil and aged in new oak. Its power, spiciness, density and overall heft make it one to put away and forget about for a decade. Clearly some serious wine here, though. Why buy overly extracted, over oaked 3rd growth Margaux for twice as much when you can have this??

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Why can't more CA wine be this good? Joseph Swan Sonoma Zinfandel 2002

Sweet Jesus, son of Mary! The 2002 Sonoma zin I enjoyed last night with the roommates (well, they had some, but I was perhaps a bit greedy) was easily the most satisfying bottle of wine I have drunk year to date, and it would have undoubtedly been on the same list for last year if I had drunk it then. Of course Rod Berglund's wines are the real deal, but this one was truly in its moment last night. Imagine the most delicious, sun drenched, slightly spicy zinfandel fruit, but with real vibrancy, great natural acidity, and a softness that only several years of bottle age can provide. You taste Joseph Swann wines and you will realize why he has been so influential to so many people, from fellow vintners to the likes of Kermit Lynch, who quotes him in 'Adventures on the Wine Route.'

In Mondovino, Hubert de Montille mentions how he prefers wines that are direct, perhaps a bit firm in their youth, wines that cut through the palate and leave a marked impression. Modern wines, he claims, spread out on the front and mid-palate and then disappear. They are 'wines of betrayal' (or some such verbiage to that effect). The 2002 Joseph Swan Sonoma Zinfandel is no wine of betrayal. Its lively flavors ever so gently glide across the front palate, and then head towards the sides and underside of the tongue, lingering there. If you haven't tasted it, you really should. This is real wine, and as authentic an expression of California as you will ever find.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Lost Boyz - Renee

Though it's not the most exciting beat, or the most complex verses, this song is a lesson in story telling. RIP Freaky Tah.

Comparative chocolate tasting

While browsing the snacks aisle in Rainbow Grocery, a line-up of 3 distinctive chocolate bars, each from cacao beans produced in different countries, and of a different cocoa content, caught my eye. Theo is the chocolatier's name, out of Seattle. Combining these 3 bars with one of the dozen or so whole cacao beans I bagged up from the bulk food section, we've got all the makings of an intriguing chocolate tasting.

Theo Madagascar Chocolate 65% Cacao

Produced from beans grown in Madagascar, this reminded me of any basic brand of bittersweet baking chocolate. Sweet-sour dried black currant type flavors here, with the sweetness not very well integrated. Not a repeat purchase.

Theo Ghana 84% Cacao

A darker chocolate, in color and flavor. Not very chocolatey, but a satisfying texture and dark, but not overly so, flavor.

Theo Venezuela 91% Cacao

The higher up you go in cacao percentage, the less chocolate flavors you get. Ironic, yes? This is a limited edition chocolate that has almost a whole grain cereal sort of savor to it. Interesting for academic purposes, but not all too pleasurable.

The whole cacao bean (origin unknown)

I was really excited to see these (actually the lady friend spotted them- thank you lady friend) in the impressive bulk food section of Rainbow Grocery. The smell was great - intense cocoa powder and at times, a hint of banana. Flavorwise, this is another curiosity. It tastes a bit chocolatey, a bit bitter, more than a bit raw and unprocessed. Which was fun for a change, to taste where chocolate comes from, straight from the source. Though once again, I don't see this replacing pantry space devoted to good quality chocolate bars anytime soon. I would especialy enjoy these on a prolonged hike, to provide that hiking in the Andean foothills feeling.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Straight Class: Jo Landron Vin Mousseux

Upon spotting a double facing of Jo Landron sparkling wine in the store last week, I was truly excited. Landron's muscadets (bottled under the Domaine de la Louvetrie label) are stellar, and I did not know that we would be getting in a bit of Jo's vin mousseux as well. Tonight I tried said bottle of sparkling wine from Muscadet, and it was not only good, but really fucking good.

Now I can appreciate sparklers from all over, whether it is a crisp cremant de Loire, an incomparable Schloss Gobelsburg sekt, or a classy cava like Raventos i Blanc. That being said, I appreciate these wines for what they are, without trying to make any comparison to Champagne (Gobelsburg, now that I think of it, is very champagne like as well). Jo's sparkling wine brings to mind good, entry level NV champagne. The intense golden yellow color, as well as the broad, creamy palate and soft mousse, suggests that this might be fruit from '00, and '01, though I really can not make this claim with any certainty. What is certain is the combination of chalky minerality, acidity and intense flavors that bring real deal champagne to mind. Not most grand marques, mind you, but solid entry level non-vintage grower champagne. Now that I've built this wine up, I don't believe that anyone else carries it, though there is a certain store in Manhattan who might be able bring some in from Jo himself....

Potluck Piemontese

It was a great night of mainly Piemontese inspired food and wine last night at my friend Mark's house over in the east bay. Tasty food, interesting wines and an internationally diverse crowd - Spain, Italy, France, Russia, Iowa, Berkeley and of course Baltimore were all represented.

To start there were antipasti, including Mark's specialty, acciughe al verde (anchovies in garlicky parsley sauce). I was really enjoying a bottle of Slovenian rizling with this (that's not ebonics, its slovenian!) as well as an interesting Pinot Gris from Alsace.

2004 Dveri-Pax Renski Rizling 'E'

A local importer brought this wine. A bit petrolly on the nose, and somehwere in between an Alsatian and New Zealand style of dry Riesling. The wine had the flavor authority, minerality and balance of Alsace Riesling, but with a lighter touch and lower alcohol. As far the as the NZ comparison, it's just that the fruit was so juicy and new world-ish. Not overdone or artificial tasting in anyway, though. This wine tastes natural. I'll have to seek out more wines from these guys. Slovenia, it's not just about Movia....

2005 Domaine Loew Pinot Gris Bruderback Clos Marienberg

Interesting wine! There was all of the yellow stone fruit and lightly honeyed goodness of Alsace Pinot Gris, but with a distinctive minerality running through the wine. I could taste fossilized marine organisms in this wine, not because fossilized marine organisms are a regular part of my diet, but, you know, that's what this wine brings to mind. Pinot Blanc and Klevner from Alsace sometimes conveys this funky, chewy minerality. This was delicious with the secondo of fennel braised pork.

2005 Bruno Giacosa Nebbiolo d'Alba

Really austere and closed at first, the wine opened up to reveal some powerful, but still reserved, mixed berry fruit, with an increasingly iron mineral vein after some breathing in the glass. Very young nebbiolo, but definitely pure class, and worthy of putting away for at least 7 years. Served with my 'Risotto al Barolo' recipe (a good one from Lydia B) this wine worked nicely. Though the wine below might have been the better pairing.

2004 Piero Busso Barbaresco Santa Stefanetto

Tre bicchieri and it's easy to see why. This wine is clearly done in a modern style, powerful, red fruited, soft, meaty. Aromatics definitely take a back seat to a very enticing, surprisingly approachable palate. Modern nebbiolo based wines from the Piedmont are not nearly as interesting, subtle, or haunting as the best of their traditional counterparts, but they certainly are fun to drink. Of all the wine regions in the world with the Traditionalist vs Modernist dynamic, Piedmont's modern wines, I think, are the most balanced, least oaky, and most drinkable. Somehow this worked fairly well with the fennel braised pork, but not as well as the pinot gris, which I find to be good pork wine in general. For this dish, with the subtle, slowly caramelized fennel and hint of coriander, white wine seemed to be in order. Very impressive meat braising by importer (and chef?) Gary.

Lest we forget, there was a terrific salad - gotta have my greens. Not very authentically Piedmont, as it's usually meat, meat, and more meat, but here in the Bay area we party hard, drink well, eat well and do not neglect our local, organic veges, alright? Olga made a delicious mixed green salad with one of the tastiest vinaigrettes I have had. It tasted as though there was somehow artichoke flavor infused in the vinaigrette (?) Very lightly dressed and topped with Israeli feta, this was my favorite type of salad, fresh, light, plentiful and flavorful.

Some delicious, simple 2006 Saracco Moscato was tasty with a variety of Gorgonzola, and even better with the lemon polenta nut cake. Crumbly and precarious to handle, but eminently tasty.

Thanks Mark, Chloe, Raquel, Olga and Gary for making it a great evening.

Monday, February 4, 2008


FYA!!! One of my all-time favorite songs from one of my favorite albums, Red. Sly and Robbie are quite simply one of the tightest, funkiest, most bad-ass riddim sections of all times. Oh, and the other musicians here are no slouches, either.

BLACK UHURU DOUBLE PLAY! Pt. 2 Plastic Smile live at Rockpalast!

Little known fact about Black Uhuru: Puma Jones dropped out of Columbia University to tour with the band. She was an American from Alabama who was bitten by the reggae bug. Very talented singer, who hit some really interesting harmonies with Michael and Duckie. Rest in peace, Puma.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Spanish (and a few Portuguese) TN's

OK, heeeere we go:

Raventos i Blanc l'Hereu NV

As the history goes, this estate is run by a member of the Codorniu family (of Freixenet fame). Familiar wine story: There was a split in the family and they struck a deal whereby one side would keep the family name, or the brand (la marca en espanol) and the other would retain ownership of all of the vineyards. Well, of course Raventos i Blanc, which uses only estate fruit, kept the choice vineyards. Taste this cava and you'll see who truly got the better end of the deal, that is if authenticity and real quality are things you might be into. This is classy, bone dry, electric cava. As Q-tip would say, it's a vibrant thing. Busta Rhymes might concur: A viverant, viverant....

Solar de Serrade Alvarinho Vinho Verde 2006

This vinho verde is 100% alvarinho (albarino en Espana). The winery is located in the northernmost sub-zone of Vinho Verde, closest to the Spanish border. And it really reminds me of Do Ferreiro, which for anyone familiar with Do Ferreiro is a good thing. Very expressive, with a smoky minerality on the nose leading to fresh, natural, red apple type flavors.

Tajinaste Valle de la Orotava Blanco 2006

White wine from the canary islands, produced from Listan blanco. They think that it might be a variant of Palomino. Dry, crisp, green-yellow pear-apple fruit, with a bitter snap to the finish. OK but not particularly exciting.

Ladera Sagrada Castelo de Papa Godello 2006

Fatter, broader, and clunkier than I like my godello, or any white wine for that matter. I would rather not call out an importer like this, but many more misses from these folks (no names) and I will not be trying their other wines anytime soon. There are too many other companies bringing in much better wines from Spain right now.

Niepoort Redoma 2006

New french oak warning! A dead ringer for young village Chassagne-Montrachet, of course minus the fruit intensity and acidity. I'm keeping this one in the fridge for a few days to see if I will be proven wrong, but I seriously doubt it. To be honest, you're better off buying St. Aubin for $10 less. You can put the money you saved into buying some Niepoort 20 yr tawny.

Crucillon Garnacha (Bodegas Aragonesas) 2005

Not bad for $7. Cherry fruited, unoaked, natural tasting garnacha.

Quiles Primitivo 'Raspay' Tinto Brut 2002

While it takes the prize for most confusing wine label I have ever seen, this 100% Monastrell from Alicante is some nuanced, pretty wine. Yes, I did just refer to Monastrell (Mourvedre for the francophiles) as 'pretty.' Fermented in 100% used American oak, this wine's nose is delicate, red fruited and spicy, with cinnamon stick leading the way. On the palate the red fruit and spice continues initially, though it transforms into licorice and dark fruit skins on the finish. There is also a suggestion of Hershey's chocolate (anyone who lived near PA, and went on the Hershey's chocolate tour, or who merely is familiar with the slightly cloying, carob like, processed taste of Hershey's chocolate knows what I'm talking about). Nevertheless, this is fun wine, drinking well now, and reasonably priced.

Vina Valoria Rioja Reserva 1968

The second time I have tasted this wine, and while it is still going, with muted cherry flavors and maybe some other stuff going on, I don't think the quality merits spending the dough you will inevitably spend on 40 year-old Rioja (which, relative to other 40 year old wines out there is not much, but still I'd look for other stuff).

Lopez de Heredia Vina Tondonia Rioja Reserva 1998

The last time I had this wine (nearly a year ago) it was corked. So it was great to taste this wine in prime form. So pure on the nose - spicy red cherries, almond liqueur, orange rind. Very bright and focused on the palate, with lively red fruits, sicilian oranges and a vein of iron minerality on the mid-palate. Gorgeous Rioja of the old school. This wine in another 5+ years will be even more interesting.

Cillar d'Silos Ribera del Duero 2004

Sweeti-ish cherry fruit. Oaky.

Buil & Gine Joan Gine Gine Priorat 2001

If you're thinking what I'm thinking, then yep - that's a lot of Gine. This would definitely fall into the rare category of 'Priorats I've had in the past 2 years that I actually like.' Though the wine was slightly corked, you could still sense the freshness of red fruits, minerality and lightly floral uplift.

Niepoort Vertente Douro 2004

Dark fruited yet still fairly fresh. I'm guessing that they work very clean in the winery, use good quality fruit, and do not let this sit in new oak for too long...(upon further review the wine goes through malo and ages 12 months in French oak). Tinta Roriz, Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca, Tinta Amarela, and other grapes. Competent and drinkable if not particularly exciting.

Quinta Vale do Maria Douro 2004

Modern, modern, modern. Loads of black currants, dark fruits, and NEW FRENCH OAK. After chilling out a day I did not like this much better.


JYB, if you didn't know, is responsible for the classic 'Sardines.' Here's some local DC gogo flavor, circe 1985.